Wyndham Hacket Pain is yet to be convinced by Corbyn both in terms of policy and personality.
UCL has a reputation for having a politically active student body, the kind who will readily use terms like “bourgeoisie” with no hint of irony. Whether this manifests itself in the form of attending student protests, supporting the rent strike, or just being really excited to see Marx on your reading lists, many at UCL identify with the political extreme. As a result, it was inevitable that during the Labour leadership contest support for Corbyn would come to dominate my newsfeed.
But I’m yet to be convinced by Corbyn both in terms of policy and personality.
It will take more than a few Owen Jones articles to persuade me that he is the right person to take this country forward. Nonetheless, I find is absurd that he is being branded as an extreme far-left figure, and it’s not just because I have a lot of lefty lecturers.
Corbyn’s radical leftist label hides the populist nature of many of his policies. A mere 48 hours into his tenure as Labour leader this was shown with his plans for the “People’s Railway”. Under these proposals the railways would be renationalised, with a YouGov poll stating that 66% of the electorate agreed with these proposals. This seems to signify a statement of intent from Corbyn, one that stands in opposition to the Conservatives but in line with the bulk of the public. This populism is no secret – the policy is called the “People’s Railway” for a reason.
The main argument against Corbyn is that his economic policies cannot be trusted. Since he has taken charge he has put together an impressive economic advisory committee. The key figure within it is Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and former economic advisor for Bill Clinton, who has been a vocal critic of austerity.
Corbyn’s anti-austerity proposals are the bedrock of the support that won him the leadership. These are not proposals that are unelectable – the SNP had resounding success in Scotland with a similar anti-austerity stance.
Let’s not forget, in many ways it is the Conservatives who are economically radical: the free market principles which underpin their policies are themselves extreme and are not central to mainstream economics. Stiglitz refers these kinds of policymakers as free market fundamentalists, though it would seen ridiculous to call David Cameron or George Osborne radical.
The economic strategy which raised the most concern is Corbyn’s plan for a national investment bank. The idea of quantitative easing puts pictures of out of control inflation and economic free fall to mind. It seems to completely oppose the message of economic stability which guided the Conservatives to an electoral majority earlier this year.
There is a sad irony to the right wing attacks of this policy, with the Conservatives boasting quantitative easing programs of their own. According to the Bank of England £175 billion was invested into the banking sector between May 2010 and 2015. There is one significant difference between Corbyn’s and the Conservatives plans – Corbyn wants the money to be invested in public infrastructure when currently it is being invested into the banks.
Meanwhile, for all you Daily Mail readers, Corbyn’s beliefs surrounding the Queen are the least palatable of all. He has stated that ideally Britain would be a republic, but acknowledges that this is not a position held by the British public at large, and is prepared to put his personal opinions to one side. This shows an open willingness to compromise and an eagerness to construct policies that are agreeable with British voters.
Corbyn is not in denial that he is left-wing and seems aware that on occasion he will have to take more central stances. This openness about his own stance is refreshing. Cameron shows no ideological consistency and moves without care between liberal, conservative, and socialist positions. There are many politicians who hide their beliefs and past – Conservative MP Eric Pickles for instant is a former Trotskyist – and it is much more preferable to have a figure who articulates their own feelings.
There are far too many lukewarm progressives who are not actually progressive. Whether it’s Hilary Clinton, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or even Barack Obama, in each case the narrative of change has been high-jacked by figures who serve corporate interests. It’s no wonder that people are declaring Corbyn a radical, but this is only compared to the narrow political mainstream, which is scared to challenge the current consensus.
What is politics if policies are not up for debate?
Corbyn is putting forward alternatives which can be challenged and debated – is this really such a radical idea?
Featured image credit: RonF